I try to ignore
the whisper of leaves.
I can feel the breeze
almost all the time now.
I can smell the dark earth
of the forest floor.
I had told myself
that I would never return here,
that it had lost its hold on me.
Yet, when I close my eyes,
I can see the dark forest.
It is much larger than I recall,
the branches of the trees
stretching out much farther
than they used to.
I watch as one of the Dryad’s
detaches herself from her tree.
She is covered in bark
that is black in colour
and I can see a trail of oil
that she leaves behind her.
“It’s been so long since we’ve seen you, dear boy.”
She runs a pointy finger
along my chin,
leaving an oily smear
along my skin.
“So very long. The light within you will sustain us for months.”
I shiver and go to turn away,
when my path is blocked
by a man made of shadows.
He used to live within me
until I was able to cast him out.
He runs his hands along my skin
and though he is made only of smoke,
his touch burns, leaving trails
along my skin that remain.
“It’s been so long since I wore your body like a coat.”
He says, showing his teeth
in a smile that is far from warm.
“It’ll be good for you to be my meat puppet again.”
I turn again, desperate to be away,
to find my path homeward again.
I see a pathway and I head down it,
following the sound of water.
Soon, I approach a body of liquid
but it does not look like water.
Instead, it is an oily mass
and the surface shines and shimmers
like gasoline in the sun.
A man made of nettles
lounges against a nearby tree.
“You remember this, don’t you? It’s your pool of tears. Its drying up though.”
He reaches out with a nettle hand.
“It flowed so well when you were hurt. I can make you hurt again.”
I turn from him and try to run,
but the forest floor is more mud than dirt
and I find myself sinking
faster than I can flee.
I begin to wallow inside of myself,
wondering how I can be free
of the forest once more.
I claw at the dirt and mud,
I let out a guttural cry of rage,
knowing that I would not survive
another stay in this forest,
that there is no gingerbread house here,
no path of breadcrumbs,
that it is not a home to me.
I claw at the dirt and mud
and I notice a streak of light
that comes from the ring ringer
of my left hand.
There is no ring there yet,
but there will be.
Still, it shines brightly,
even from within the mud and dirt.
Then it is as if the first light
turns on the others.
A light at my heart level,
bright like a beacon.
The light from my heart,
shining out to all who meet me.
A third light comes on inside of me
and I can feel this one so clearly.
It shines from my third eye.
I pull my hands from the mud
and reach up to touch the light
but my hands come into contact
with a crown upon my head.
Though I know I don’t wear a physical one,
there a crown sits,
bright and clear like the light
that emanates from inside of me.
The light begins to wash away
all of the mud until I can stand again,
all of the smoke until I can breathe again.
all of the tears until I am at peace again.
It turns the nettle man to ash.
It turns dryad made of oil to rainbows.
It turns the shadow man into nothing
for shadow can not hide in light.
And then I take one last look
at the dark forest, knowing that
I will try not to return,
that I will focus on the joy
so that I can’t hear the
whisper of the leaves.
I take one last look and then